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Family Ties - The Fourth Season



DVD Release Date: August 5, 2008 (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Video)
Color / 1985-86
MSRP: $39.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24 (plus the Family Ties Vacation movie)
Running time: Approx. 11 Hours, 13 Minutes
Audio Tracks: Dolby Digital English Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; No Subtitles; Closed Captioned
Special Features:

  • Original Episodic/Syndication Promos
  • Gag Reel


    The smash hit series Family Ties offers the perfect premise for great comedy, and by Season Four the two battling generations of Keatons still possess a nurturing blend of laughter and heart. Now a college sophomore, Alex (Emmy winner Michael J. Fox) falls in love with Ellen, a girl who's his total opposite. And Mallory (Justine Bateman) falls for Nick, a junkyard collector who's her intellectual equal! But it's young Jennifer (Tina Yothers) who feels off-balance, as she grows closer to mom Elyse (Meredith Baxter Birney) but more distant from dad Steven (Michael Gross) now that she's becoming a teenager. But even with their older kids changing - and as baby Andrew's diapers still need changing - the Keaton parents know their four kids will always be bound by Family Ties!

    Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

    Family Ties' fourth season premiered with the first part of "The Real Thing" on September 26, 1985. Part 2 aired on October 3, 1985. A two-hour "Family Ties Vacation" movie aired as a movie of the week on September 23, 1985 before the official start of the season. The show continued to air on Thursday nights after "The Cosby Show" at 8:30-9:00PM on a night of "Must See TV." With another season under their belt, the show moved up to 2nd place in the rankings with a 30.0 rating. Only the fifth season would have a higher rating. For the fourth season, the show received an Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Comedy Series." Justine Bateman was nominated for "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series." Writer Michael J. Weithorn received an Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series." Michael J. Fox won his first Emmy for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series." The show was nominated for a Golden Globe for "Best TV-Series - Comedy/Musical." Michael J. Fox received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical." The fourth season saw the addition of some recurring cast members. Tray Pollan played Alex's girlfriend, Ellen Reed. Scott Valentine joined the cast as a poorly educated aspiring sculptor named Nick Moore.

    Memorable episodes included "The Real Thing (Part 1)," in which college sophomore Alex dates a cute freshman he spotted in the school catalogue, but ends up falling for her roommate Ellen instead. In "The Real Thing (Part 2)," with encouragement from Elyse, Alex travels to Pennslyvania to tell Ellen how he feels, even though she has gon there to elope with her boyfriend. Steven is appalled at Mallory's new artist boyfriend Nick. He's rough and crude, but changing Mallory's mind about him proves difficult in "Mr. Wrong." With their lives so different, Alex is afraid he'll lose Ellen if he doesn't try to fit into her world in "Don't Go Changin." Hoping to impress her parents, Mallory's boyfriend Nick - with help from Alex - gives himself a makeover, and becomes clean, conservative, and employed in "Mr. Right." Stressed about school mid-terms, Alex can't sleep in "How Do You Sleep?." In "You've Got a Friend," Mallory tries to bond with a 12-year-old girl she caught shoplifting. When Skippy invites Mallory to the homecoming dance and she turns him down, Alex sets him up on a blind date in "Fool For Love." Everyone's excited about Mallory graduating from high school, but then a teacher informs Mher that if she fails history, she won't be getting her diploma in "Paper Chase."

    Notable guest stars included Tracy Pollan as Ellen Reed in "The Real Thing (Parts 1 and 2)" and many other episodes. Suzanne Snyder appeared as Tricia Armstrong in "The Real Thing (Parts 1 and 2)." Danny Ponce ("The Hogan Family") played the shoeshine boy in "The Real Thing (Part 2)." Peter Van Norden was the janitor in "The Real Thing (Part 2)." Scott Valentine makes his first appearance as Nick Moore in "Mr. Wrong." Danny Nucci guest starred as Rick and Noah Hathaway was Adam Galardner in "Designated Hitter." Bruce Springsteen's sister, Pamela Springseen, appeared as Gail in "Don't Go Changin." River Phoenix played Eugene Forbes in "My Tutor." Martha Plipmton guest starred as Jessie Black in "You've Got a Friend." Corey Feldman appeared as a student and Belita Moreno was Mrs. Pedroza in "The Disciple." Ronny Cox played Ellen's father, Franklin Reed, in "Where's Poppa?." Christine Belford guest starred as Victoria Hurstenberg in "Art Lover." Mark Moses appeared as Rick Albert and Macon McCalman was Professor Spanos in "Teacher's Pet." Miriam Flynn played Mrs. Carpenter in "My Buddy." Peter Scolari guest starred as Paul Kenter in "Once in Love with Elyse." Willie Garson appeared as the Waiter in "Paper Chase."


    This 4-disc set contains all 24 episodes (plus the "Family Ties Vacation" tv movie) from the 1985-86 season. The packaging is similar to the previous seasons. It comes in an Amaray movie-style case with clear outer edges. The cover art features a fourth season cast photo with baby Andrew. The Family Ties logo is in orange at the top. This season, once again, lacks the word "Complete" in the title. A tiny cast photo with an orange background is on the spine of the case. Orange is the predominant color used on the packaging. On the back of the case, there is a synopsis of the set, cast listing, special features and DVD specs. There is another fourth season cast photo with baby Andrew. In addition, there are three smaller photos at the botoom of Alex, Mallory/Jennifer and Steven/Elyse. There are plastic holders on the both sides inside the case that hold the first and fourth discs, as well as a middle white plastic holder that has discs 2 and 3 back-to-back. They have the episode titles, original airdates and short summaries listed by disc in the backgrounds. The disc numbers, episode titles and original airdates are in orange text. With the embedded plastic holders in the way, it is hard to read the information. Slim cases for each individual disc would have been much nicer and easier to read the episode information. The discs have a silver background. The Family Ties logo on them gives a hologram-type effect when you turn them into the light. The titles of the episodes on each disc are listed. Photos of the cast on the discs would have looked better. Disc 1 has episodes 69-74. Disc 2 has episodes 75-82. Disc 3 has episodes 83-89. Disc 4 rounds out the set with episodes 90-96.

    Menu Design and Navigation:

    The menus continue the same theme as seasons 2-4. They have a cork board background with various photos and related items (thumbtacks, scraps of paper, buttons) on them. Here is who is featured on each main menu: Disc 1 - Steven, Steven/Elyse, vacation photo; Disc 2 - cast photo with baby Andrew - strip of photos of Alex (1 with Steven and Elyse) - cast photo of Alex, Mallory and Jennifer; Disc 3 - cast photo with baby Andrew - Mallory - Alex/Else; Disc 4 - Alex/Mallory/Jennifer Steven - Andrew/Steven - Andrew. The Family Ties logo is in red with the disc number in various items. There are options for "Play All Episodes," "Promos," "Episodes" and "Gag Reel" (only on disc 4). When you select "Episodes," it takes you to a sub-menu where the episode titles are listed vertically and there is a different series of photos on each disc. When you select an episode, it takes you to a 3rd menu where there are more different photos and you can choose to play the episode by itself or with the syndication promo at the beggining. A previews option is available when you first insert disc 1. There is about 3 minutes of previews or you can go directly to the main menu. Chapter stops are available within the episodes at the appropriate places, but no separate scene selection menus are offered.

    Video and Audio Quality:

    The video and audio quality has seemed to improve a bit from season to season. These episodes are now over 20 years old, but they still look and sound remarkably well. I've watched the show a lot in syndication over the years and on the Columbia House VHS tapes released several years ago, and the show has never looked better. Watching the episodes side-by-side, the difference was amazing. The colors are very bright and the picture is quite sharp and clear. They are, of course, in their original full frame 1.33:1 ratio. Unlike the previous seasons, the episodes aren't spread out so well this time, but that is because the "Family Ties Vacation" is included. Disc 2 has the most episodes with 8, while discs 2-3 have 7 episodes each. For the closing logo enthusiasts, they have the UBU Productions logo and one for CBS Television Distribution. A little bit of trivia: UBU Productions was named after Gary David Goldberg's dog in college and the photo was taken in 1972. The dog died in 1984. Unfortunately, there are no original Paramount blue mountain logos here.

    The audio is your standard mid-80's Digital Mono track. I didn't notice any major problems, and the audio is at a good level and the dialogue is easy to understand. No subtitles are offered. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes. The special features are not rated and some are not closed captioned.

    Like the previous three seasons, there is a small disclaimer on the back of the packaging which says "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions." They don't make any mention speficially about any music being changed this time. Season 1 had the most noticable edits and music changed on it, while seasons 2-3 had only some minor edits. The "Family Ties Vacation" movie originally aired as a two-hour tv movie with commercials and it is presented that way on the DVD (without the commercials, of course). It runs 1 hour, 34 minutes, 56 seconds. The majority of the episodes have consistent running times of 23:57-24:01. The flashback episodes, "A Word to the Wise (Parts 1 and 2)," have longer running times of 24:40 and 25:23. The only episode that is a bit shorter than the rest is "Teacher's Pet." It runs 23:47. "The Real Thing (Part 2)" does included the "last week on Family Ties" opening tag. You will also be pleased to hear that "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters can be heard about 5 different times in "The Real Thing (Parts 1 and 2)." It is the famous Alex & Ellen dance song. Such a memorable song that so many people have asked me about over the years.

    The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. Here is the episode breakdown by disc, including the running times:

    Disc 1
    69-72. Family Ties Vacation (09/23/85) (1:34:56)
    73. The Real Thing (Part 1) (09/26/85) (23:59)
    74. The Real Thing (Part 2) (10/03/85) (23:59)

    Disc 2
    75. Mr. Wrong (10/17/85) (24:00)
    76. Designated Hitter (10/24/85) (23:58)
    77. Don't Go Changin' (10/31/85) (23:59)
    78. The Old College Try (11/07/85) (23:59)
    79. My Tutor (11/14/85) (23:59)
    80. Mr. Right (11/21/85) (23:58)
    81. Just One Look (12/05/85) (23:58)
    82. How Do You Sleep? (12/12/85) (23:58)

    Disc 3
    83. You've Got a Friend (12/19/85) (23:58)
    84. Nothing But a Man (01/02/86) (23:59)
    85. The Disciple (01/09/86) (24:01)
    86. Where's Poppa? (01/16/86) (24:00)
    87. Fool For Love (01/23/86) (24:01)
    88. Checkmate (01/30/86) (24:01)
    89. Engine Trouble (02/06/86) (23:57)

    Disc 4
    90. A Word to the Wise (Part 1)(02/13/86) (24:40)
    91. A Word to the Wise (Part 2) (02/13/86) (25:23)
    92. Art Lover (02/20/86) (23:59)
    93. Techer's Pet (03/02/86) (23:47)
    94. My Buddy (03/06/86) (24:01)
    95. Once in Love with Elyse (05/01/86) (24:01)
    96. Paper Chase (05/08/86) (23:57)

    Special Features:

    The special features have been a mixed bag on these releases. Season 1 had no special features. Season 2 had some featurettes with new cast members and episodic promos. Season 3 had the episodic promos and a gag reel. Season 4 follows the pattern of Season 3 with the promos and gag reel. The episodic promos can be found on each disc, while the gag reel if found on the fourth disc.

    Episodic Promos - These are short, 30-second promos that were aired after episodes in syndication. You can play these together on each disc or before the respective episode. The narrator will say "Next time on Family Ties..." and then he details the next episode. These have different background music used on them. I don't believe TBS or Nick at Nite ever aired these. I do remember seeing them in local syndication in the late 1980's or early 1990's. These were fun to see again. Hopefully they are included on all of the remaining seasons. Unfortunately, there are no promos for the "Family Ties Vacation" movie. It would have been great to see some original network promos for this tv movie of the week.

    Gag Reel (5:27) - There are no opening credits on the bloopers and outtakes this time. These are all high, broadcast quality clips. While you've probably seen some of them over yhe years on various blooper specials, there are some that I've never seen before. They must have had a gag reel for each season. There are some very funny ones here, including one that mentions Michael J. Fox's Canadian background and some with the baby.

    Michael J. Fox: Public Service Announcement (:33) - Michael J. Fox talks about Parkinson's Disease research. Hopefully they will find a cure for this one day. Visit for more information and to donate or to join Team Fox.

    Final Comments:

    Hey! Family Ties is back on DVD after only a wait of 6 months. Early June would have been better, but I'm sure many fans are pleased that the seasons are now being released so briskly. There are only 3 more seasons to go to finish the series, so hopefully they will wrap things up next year.

    The fourth season was a big year for the show. This is probably my favorite season. There are many classic episodes during the first half of the season and some good ones in the second half. Michael J. Fox won his first Emmy and the show continued to climb in the ratings. We saw the addition of Tracy Pollan and Scott Valentine to the cast. While Tracy would only be on the show for this season, Scott would remain with the show for the final 3 seasons. It is too bad Tracy decided to go back to New York to be closer to her home, but she and Michael J. Fox later dated and married in 1988.

    Yes, "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters is included on the DVD. Some fans were worried they would somehow replace it with something else. I don't think there's anyway that they would have replaced the signature song of the series. It can be heard at least 5 different times in the "The Real Thing (Parts 1 and 2)." The song was actually recorded in 1981, but shot up to #1 on both the Hot 100 and adult contemporary charts in late January 1987 and stayed there for 15 weeks.

    Season 5 should not be that far off. Courteney Cox joined the cast as a psychology student named Lauren Miller and became Alex's love interest. Little baby Andrew Keaton would morph into a pre-schooler and be played by Brian Bonsall. One of the most famous episodes of the series, "A, My Name Is Alex," was part of this season. It will be interesting to see if they include the Family Ties spin-off, "The Art of Being Nick," as a special feature. They actually produced 3 different pilots and one of them aired on NBC in August of 1986.

    Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Special Features: 1.5/5
    Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
    Overall: 4/5

    -- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 08/03/08

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